This study aims to enhance structural build-up of ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) without influencing the initial flowability, which is critical in repair applications (e.g., use of UHPC in thin bonded overlays for bridge deck rehabilitation). Specialty admixtures, such as a viscosity-modifying admixture (VMA), have been used to enhance the structural build-up at rest. However, the use of specialty admixtures can increase superplasticizer (SP) demand to maintain proper flowability; the synergistic effect of these admixtures on structural build-up is not well understood as the coupled admixture content can reverse the net effect on yield stress, viscosity, and thixotropy. In this study, VMAs including welan gum (WG), diutan gum (DG), and cellulose ether (CE) were used. Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and acrylic ester (AE) latex polymers (LPs) that can enhance structural build-up and bond strength were also incorporated. The competitive adsorption between these specialty admixtures and SP and its effect on structural build-up, early-age hydration, compressive and pull-off strengths, porosity and entrapped air content of UHPC mortar (i.e., without fiber) were systematically investigated. Test results indicated that the incorporation of anionic WG and DG that exhibited high competitive adsorption with SP led to a 275%–450% enhancement in structural build-up despite the 55%–135% increase of SP demand. Such increase was limited to 130% when using CE, SBR, or AE that cannot effectively adsorb onto cement particles in the presence of SP. This was because the high competitive adsorption between specialty admixtures and SP strengthened the particle flocculation and promoted the cement hydration in the first hour; the latter resulted in 20%–40% enhancement in non-reversible component of structural build-up. Furthermore, the use of LP at low and moderate dosages secured high bond strength to normal strength mortar despite 8%–33% decrease in compressive strength given the increased capillary porosity. The use of VMAs increased the entrapped air and resulting 5%–15% lower compressive strength, while the bond strength was not influenced.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Competitive adsorption; Latex polymer; Structural build-up; Ultra-high-performance concrete; Viscosity modifying admixture

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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Publication Date

01 Aug 2023